Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is still prevalent today and office spaces are negatively affecting our physical and mental health, according to a new survey from Remark Group.
A survey of over 1,000 UK office workers found that 80 per cent think that poor indoor air quality could be having a negative impact on their health with the same amount reporting it could be having a similar effect on their productivity at work. Furthermore, 57 per cent think air quality is affecting their mental/physical health.
On top of this, 86 per cent get headaches at work, with almost a quarter of people (23 per cent) saying they get them every day. Amazingly, nearly all office workers (91 per cent) report that they suffer from tiredness or lethargy at work, with 41 per cent saying they suffer every day.
Oher symptoms include dry, itchy or watery eyes (78 per cent), dry throat (76 per cent) and itchy or irritated skin (70 per cent).
Environmental psychologist and workplace wellbeing expert Dr Nigel Oseland said that whilst sick building syndrome was still spoken about, it wasn’t as prevalent as it was in the 1990s when it was making headlines.
“Office wellbeing is of paramount importance and it is clear that a person’s work environment can impact significantly, not only on their health and wellbeing, but also on their performance.”
“It is, therefore, crucial that today’s businesses focus on creating healthy buildings which encourage wellness and productivity. They can do so, by monitoring air quality in the office and embracing new technologies to ensure that the work environment promotes workplace wellbeing.”
“I am shocked by the results of this survey, but not entirely surprised. Whilst we are producing some great-looking, modern offices we need to pay more attention to basic human needs, to the so-called hygiene factors, such as good indoor air quality, temperature control and noise reduction. The various disciplines within the workplace industry need a concerted effort for a marked step change from sick buildings to healthy buildings. Everyone has the right to work in a healthy workplace.”
Remark said it also conducted internal research on its own employees, and found productivity levels dropped when windows were closed, which coincided with the rise in CO2 levels.
“Today’s office environments can drain happiness, health and even productivity but ensuring that air quality is regulated can reduce symptoms such as headaches, fatigue and eye irritation, while increasing productivity and general wellbeing,” Penelope Harrall of Remark Group said.
“The sensors we used monitored nine different elements, with the most important being humidity, temperature and carbon dioxide. By using air quality sensors, you can maintain the right level of air quality and enable all employees to benefit from a comfortable working environment.”
The survey also found:
- Only half of people (47 per cent) have temperature control in their office;
- 30 per cent of people don’t have access to open space near their office;
- 30 per cent won’t open windows as they are worried about exterior air quality;
- 56 per cent are worried about air quality in the area in which they work.
What are the culprits?
Remark says high CO2 levels contribute to a stuffy atmosphere causing employees to feel tired, lethargic and unmotivated to be productive. In many work environments, CO2 levels are above 1000 and are often the result of poor ventilation and/or circulation within the space.
Humidity also plays a huge role in workplace comfort and can have a big impact on productivity and motivation. If humidity levels are too low, employees start to feel irritation in their skin, eyes and throat but if too high, the space could promote the growth of unsightly and unhygienic mould, bacteria and dust mites.